Hiya Sweet Friend:
We live in a beautiful world. Every day, there are endless moments of love, growth, discovery and kindness.
But we also live in a horrible world. Injustice, pain, hardship and darkness flourish.
It’s two sides of the same coin. And the side you get to experience the most depends a lot on your own personal circumstances.
If you get to walk on the bright side on the regular, you may have the privilege of ignoring or not even becoming aware of the darkness.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
And while I admit that it’s daunting, I implore you to take a good hard look around you and see that that darkness exists, even if you have the privilege of mostly avoiding or ignoring it. Because ignoring things never helps them go away.
The only way that we can do that is to first acknowledge our privilege. So let’s talk about privilege and how recognizing it is an incredibly important thing that can help to foster powerful change.
Why Are We Talking About Privilege?
Maybe you’re thinking – this is a health and self-care website Sara. Why write about privilege?
Here’s the thing – health has many facets. Social and community health are just as important as individual health. In fact, they often go hand in hand. Which means that the health of your community and our society can directly affect individual health outcomes. (source, source 2)
Privilege, or lack thereof, plays a HUGE roll. So much so that those with the most privilege may not even see it.
Seriously, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are some serious health gaps experienced by people of colour. Yea… among many other things, white privilege can lead to better health outcomes. How messed up and unfair is that?! (source)
But examining your privilege is important. It involves acknowledging how it may benefit your life. And helps you to determine how you can use this knowledge to better the health of your community and our world.
This is an important form of social and community care. Which helps everyone.
And, frankly, that’s self-care too. We all benefit from healthy communities.
Ultimately, privilege-based health disparities (and all of the other issues created by privilege) are not ok.
But you can’t help repair or even recognize these issues if you don’t first recognize your own privilege.
It all starts with you, sweet friend. And that’s why we’re talking about it.
Recognizing Your Privilege Doesn’t Make You a Bad Person
Your privilege by no means signifies that you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t suffered, worked hard or experienced any form of hardship in your life either. You just have a leg up. Often because of factors that are completely out of your control, like the world you were born into and who you are.
Social Worker Kathleen Ebbitt, MSW, shares these examples:
“Examples of types of identity that can afford an individual privilege include: race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, country of origin, language, and/or ability.” (source)
Let’s use me as a deeper example:
I am a white, cisgendered, heterosexual woman from Canada. I was raised in a middle-class home, I am bilingual, I have a supportive family, access to health care, a roof over my head and food on my table. That’s already a heck of a lot of privilege right there.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had hardships – having a chronic illness, for example. Nor does it mean I have all the privilege in the world. I’m a woman after all, and, sadly, gender inequality is a thing. Although, women of colour and LGBTQIA+ women have it worse – intersectional feminism is important, yo! And we need to recognize our privilege in order to see that.
Regardless of my hardships and struggles, I have been handed many unearned privileges simply because of who I am, the colour of my skin, my sexual identity, etc.
That’s what privilege is. You acquire it without asking. There’s no package with a pretty bow to unwrap. It’s just handed to you. And it’s very possible that you might not even be aware of all of the privileges you have.
But there’s a power imbalance in this world, and your privilege affects the part you play in it.
So Why Acknowledge Your Privilege?
Because how else can you begin to understand experiences outside of your own? How can you even start to see injustices that you will never have to face? And how can you push for positive change if you don’t allow yourself to understand the problems and your position within them in the first place?
Let’s get even more specific – You can’t fully understand Black Lives Matter or Indigenous Lives Matter movements if you don’t see how our systems automatically prioritize white lives.
That prioritization creates injustice and disparity for people of colour. It’s part of the dark side of the world that I mentioned earlier. And, if you’re white, you need to recognize your privilege in order to truly begin to see and understand these issues.
If you don’t acknowledge the injustices in the world you can never help to abolish them. Understanding your position and privilege is a huge part of understanding the systems that allows injustices to prevail.
Cory Booker once said:
“You don’t have to be one of those people that accepts things as they are. Every day, take responsibility for changing them right where you are.” (source)
Essentially, every day you are faced with two choices. And the Black Lives Matter Revolution that you are watching unfold all around you (and hopefully supporting) is highlighting those choices:
Will you maintain a willful ignorance and essentially allow things to continue as they are?
Or will you take responsibility to do your part to help make the world a better place for everyone?
Taking responsibility requires a lot of recognition. And a ton of soul searching and self-work.
It means that you have to listen. Open yourself up to discomfort. And allow yourself to learn and to unlearn a lot of previous assumptions.
It takes dedication, commitment and work. And it’s important to know that this is a long term marathon, not a sprint.
You’re not going to unravel all of your privileges and understand them, and the disadvantages they create for others, immediately. There will be many AH HAH moments. What’s important is that you continue to work towards them and stay open.
Recognizing your privileges helps you see how a system you were born into works to benefit some but not even close to all.
There is a whole world outside of yourself that you will never experience.
Your privilege might allow you to look away injustices, hardships, systemic racism and horrors that surround you. Because, with the right privileges (like white and gender privilege) you may never be negatively affected.
But looking away is a choice. It empowers injustice and only creates suffering.
So, even if you don’t have to, today, tomorrow, forever, open your eyes and see the world your privilege allows you to ignore. Listen to those who are most affected by it. Help amplify their voices and strive for positive change.
And hey, it’s going to get uncomfortable sometimes. That’s part of it. So take care of yourself as you go. Because you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. And the world really needs you to be in it for the long haul. Self-care factors in here.
How We Can Make A Difference
Now I imagine you may be thinking:
“I’m only one person, what can I even do?”
Which brings me to another quote. This time from Ghandi:
“Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it anyway.” (source)
Ok, ok… that sounds a bit like a bummer, but let me break it down.
You can’t possibly know the true impact of your existence and all of your actions. But, ultimately, your life does have meaning and your actions do have a powerful impact, even when you can’t see it and it feels insignificant.
You might feel small, like you’re a speck of sand on a crowded beach. But that doesn’t mean that your voice and your actions don’t have any power. It’s important that you know that.
You can be an agent of positive change, if you choose to be.
Here Are Some Things We Can Do
To care, to learn, and unlearn prior assumptions, to speak up, to amplify other voices, to be supportive and to act.
Choose to be anti-racist. Because it’s not enough to just not be racist.
Here’s the Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat’s definition:
“Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism” (source)
We need to actively strive to be anti-racist.
We’ve touched the tiniest, little tip of a GIANT iceberg. Work on deepening your knowledge and understanding of your privilege, the injustices in the world and more.
Here are some places to start:
Vote, vote, vote. Your vote matters and the people we uplift to positions of power matter. Make sure to vote for people who are focused on important changes, like ending systemic racism.
Donate (if you can):
Here are some options for donations.
Reclaim the Block shared a document of organizations in Minneapolis that need support.
These are just some options. I encourage you to support organizations who’s actions you believe in. You can also look into local non-profits that are making a difference in your community.
Follow organizations on social media and share their mission and activities. Ask how you can help. Volunteer if you are able to. Join protests when possible.
And, most importantly, continue to listen, learn, understand your privilege, speak up and act. Keep going.
Because all lives can’t matter until Black Lives and Indigenous Lives Matter.
Health and love,